In order to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree at Vassar College, a student must have a total of 34 credit units as part of their final transcript.
Should students only take Vassar coursework to meet that 34 unit requirement, they must take between 4 and 4.5 credit units every semester. That said, the college requirement that students take more than 3.5 credit units is not explained in any student documents as needed for students to graduate on time. Instead, understanding these requirements—and determining one’s four-year track accordingly—depends solely upon frequent communication with academic advisors or for students.
We at The Miscellany News do not want to place this responsibility only on student support resources like major advisors and class advisors.
The College should make certain tools readily available to students to allow them more effective tracking capabilities with regard to credit-related graduation requirements.
If students cannot—or choose not—to take 4 or more credit units per semester, there are other ways students can supplement their transcript either before or after matriculation.
While at Vassar, students can elect to receive credit for coursework taken at community colleges and local schools over the summer, as well as through field work and independent study opportunities. Those who have not yet matriculated can transfer no more than a total of eight credit units of work: four from either AP or IB programs and four from coursework taken at an accredited college or university. For the latter to be successfully counted, the coursework must not appear on the student’s high school transcript; the course must be taken on an accredited college campus with other students.
Though it is not widely advertised, and not all students take or have access to pre-matriculation credit opportunities at their high schools, students can potentially receive up to an entire year’s worth of units before entering Vassar as first-year student. These policies can be found within “The Vassar College Catalogue,” which is published annually by the College’s Dean of Studies office.
While these policies are indeed detailed by the catalogue, they remain as information that students must actively seek among many pages of documentation. Alternatively, students might possibly discover this information from communication with an advisor that is aware of the policy in order to stay knowledgeable. This creates a lot of anecdotal information on the subject of credit policies and leaves too much room for miscommunication.
The Dean of Studies office sets such policy and receives instructions by the faculty to carry out the policy. As a result, the exact purpose or intention behind these policies is left somewhat unclear for students. The policy’s obscurity within the catalog—what students can and cannot receive—clouds the policy’s inner workings.
This is not to discredit the efforts of the student support network already in place—the major advisors and class advisors, for example—those who provide academic support for students and help students remain on a track toward graduation.
However, we at The Miscellany News believe that a great way to support this existing system is to offer a tool that students can use to track and monitor academic progress on their owns, as a supplement to their transcript. Such a tool would easily explain to students what requirements they need to meet—and are working to meet—much like the transcript as it stands now.
It would also include other important and necessary information, such as if their transcript meets distribution requirements and how many credit units they would need to take each semester in order to meet the 34-unit requirement to graduate within only four years.
This concept is not meant to replace any of the support resources already offered to students, but instead serve as an easy way for students to analyze their progress either before they are interested in reaching out to their advisors or while working with an advisor to ensure they meet graduation requirements.
Another potentially helpful tool would be the creation of a virtual advising system, which was proposed several years ago by the Registrar’s Office—and advocated for by The Miscellany News in a staff editorial last spring (“Vassar must hasten digitalization of campus resources,” 2.7.13)—to assist students in tracking their academic requirements but has since received very little attention.
Ultimately, we at The Miscellany News believe students should be proactive with their graduation requirements to ensure the most enjoyable college experience. Still, it would benefit our students to better articulate how students might plan their college careers accordingly.
New sources will educate students on college policy and allow them to be better informed throughout their four years on how to stay on track for graduation.
—Staff Editorial represents the opinions of at least 2/3 of the Editorial Board.